Season three of Community, which seems like it began 17 years ago, due in no small part to a hiatus that momentarily shook the world (a.k.a. the Internet), began with a song. Well, to be fair, it actually started with Jeff literally soaring above the clouds, but semantics.
In less than 60 seconds, “Finally Be Free” accomplishes everything that’s so great about the show, and laid out a template for the rest of the season: it was an exaggerated, amusing view of reality, but with enough of an emotional core to keep things grounded, sung by a diverse group of people who love each other and are hoping to accomplish the same goal — to better themselves at Greendale.
In lieu of a breakdown of last night’s three night episode — “Digital Estate Planning,” “The First Chang Dynasty,” and “Introduction to Finality” (all of which I thought were top-notch in very different ways: “Digital” was a great concept done just right, “Chang Dynasty” was the funniest, “Finality,” the most emotionally satisfying) — I want to revisit two verses from that song, and see what it told us about the Greendale Seven.
We’re gonna fly to school each morning,
We’re gonna smile the entire time.
We’re gonna be more happy,
We’re gonna finally be fine.
The biggest takeaway from season three, even more than the state of Abed’s mental health or Shirley and Pierce’s sandwich shop, is that the Seven need Greendale as much as Greendale needs the Seven. (Or at least the Dean needs them.) This was the year they finally realized, “Maybe this place isn’t so bad.” As seven individuals, they’re fucked — Jeff, too much of a egotistical dick; Britta, too much of a burnout; Annie, too much of a perfectionist and/or Adderall addict; Troy, too much of a jock; Abed, too much of a robot; Shirley, too much of a quitter; and Pierce, too much of a…well, maybe Pierce didn’t change that much, but he had a nice moment with Gus Fring at the end of “Digital Estate Planning” and he let Jeff sign the paperwork for his and Shirley’s sandwich shop. Small steps. But as the Seven, they’ll be fine(ish).
It’d be foolish to say that this entire season was full of “smile[s] the entire time.” It was only a few episodes ago that Abed and Troy were fighting and let’s not forget “Remedial Chaos Theory,” with its various timelines, most of which turned out awful for everyone involved. But ultimately, in the darkest season of the show yet, everything ultimately turned OK — except for Chang — because the Seven have made consistently made the choice to stay together when obstacles (and Pierce’s racism) have gotten in their way. Community might be a show that resorts to “gimmicks” at times, like doing an entire episode that resembles The Legend of Zelda, but those stunts or novelties or whatever you want to call them only work because of the relationships established at the core of the show. It’s the Seven’s genuine need for one another that’s the real draw, not Annie’s sexy Santa dance (though that helps).
We’re gonna get more calm and normal,
We’re gonna fix our state of mind.
We’re gonna be less crazy,
We’re gonna finally be fine.
Let’s talk about Abed. I would argue that he’s the show’s main character – and I think the show’s arguing the same. If last night was intended as the series finale, which it sure seemed like it was, then the final scene would have been of Abed stepping into the remnants of the Dreamatorium, which he had mostly removed to give Troy an actual bedroom. Abed isn’t someone we’ll be able to make a full evaluation of until the show’s over (there are still so many questions left unanswered, like why he does hate Jim Belushi so much – actually, scratch that), but “Finality” was a momentous achievement for the character: he opened up to Britta, though Evil Abed, who was actually the real Abed all along (timelines are confusing…), also tried to cut off Jeff’s arm, so small steps. He, at last, realized that maybe he does need help; Jeff’s speech gave him perspective, that “helping only ourselves is bad, and helping each other is good.” He’s been helping only himself for all of season three, the entire series actually, and it’s time to ready himself for the post-Greendale real world, where not everyone’s like Troy. People outside of the community college won’t allow him to hire celebrity impersonators or stage elaborate movie parodies. For a character who has bugged me for some time now, this is a step in the right direction, but thankfully, not a leap, either; he’s still got his Dreamatorium, ready when needed.
And we’ve still got Community, for another season at least.
Season Grade: A-
MVP: Britta (not even close)